World

Another effort at scheduling peace negotiations between the Islamist militia that now controls much of Somalia and the nation's weak transitional government appeared headed for failure Tuesday. The latter agreed to attend "without any preconditions." But the Islamist leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, said the talks couldn't be held as long as Ethiopian soldiers, who are defending the government, are on Somali soil. The talks were proposed for Aug. 1-2 in Khartoum, Sudan, where a similar effort last weekend never got off the ground.

Campaign posters were ripped from their posts and set on fire in the streets of Congo's capital Tuesday, and police fought with opponents of President Joseph Kabila as the tense nation counted down to its first multiparty election in 40 years. The voting Sunday is to be supervised by the world's largest UN peacekeeping force at a cost of more than $400 million. Kabila is one of 33 candidates for the presidency, which he inherited after the assassination of his father in 1997. Many Congolese credit him with ending five years of civil war, but others protest that he isn't a native son, since his mother is Rwandan. The main opposition party is boycotting the election, which it alleges has been rigged.

All signs pointed to a last-minute decision by Ukraine's president on how to try to resolve the political crisis in the ex-Soviet republic. Aides said Viktor Yushchenko would neither receive a delegation of party leaders Tuesday nor accept an invitation to attend a session of parliament as the deadline passed for formation of a new government. Under the Constitution, the legislature should have announced by midnight Monday whether Yushchenko's bitter rival, Viktor Yanukovych, had formed a viable coalition. Yush-chenko has until Aug. 2 to decide whether to invite Yanu- kovych to head a government. Or, he could decide to dissolve parliament, forcing a new national election. But the speaker of parliament said it would disobey any such effort.

The apparent winner of Mexico's disputed presidential election rejected a request by his rival for a vote-by-vote recount of ballots. Felipe Calderón received a letter from leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador Monday, pledging to accept the results of a new tally by hand and not to call any more mass protests "if the [results] favor you." A computerized recount put Calderón ahead by 244,000 votes out of 41 million cast, but López Obrador alleges fraud at almost one-third of the polling places. A court must decide by the end of next month whether to order another recount.

Sales agreements for more than $1 billion worth of jet fighters and military helicopters are due to be signed Wednesday by leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez as he visits his Russian counterpart in Moscow. Under an earlier deal, Venezuela also will buy 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. The agreements worry the Bush administration, which lobbied Russian leader Vladimir Putin not to supply the weapons. Chavez, who has said he wants to forge a global counterbalance to the US, also intended to visit North Korea, but later abandoned that plan.

Typhoon Kaemi weakened into a tropical storm after lashing China's southern coast and causing the evacuation of a half-million people from its path. The region already had been battered July 14 by tropical storm Bilis, which was blamed for 612 deaths. Forecasters said rain bands associated with Kaemi would bring heavy downpours and a high risk of flooding.

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